Whether cheque was issued for time barred debt or not cannot be decided in quashing petition under Section 482 CrPC: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court recently ruled that the question of whether a cheque had been issued for a time barred debt or not is prima facie a matter of evidence, and, hence, cannot be decided while hearing petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure seeking quashing of criminal proceedings [Yogesh Jain v. Sumesh Chadha].

A division bench of Justice S Abdul Nazeer and JB Pardiwala, therefore, set aside an order of Punjab and Haryana High Court which had quashed a decision of a judicial magistrate summoning the accused in criminal proceedings under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.

“Whether the cheque in question had been issued for a time barred debt or not, itself prima facie, is a matter of evidence and could not have been adjudicated in an application filed by the accused under Section 482 of the CrPC,” the Court said.

The High Court had quashed the proceedings, observing that the accused had been summoned for a legally enforceable debt which was time barred.

The Supreme Court, however, did not agree with same.

It emphasized that once a cheque is issued and after getting a statutory notice of dishonour, the accused has the statutory right to disprove any presumptions of the negotiable instrument during the trial.

The factual matrix was that a loan had been advanced by the complainant sometime in 2011.

The cheque towards discharge of debt was dated November 1, 2018 and the complaint for dishonour of cheque was dated January 1, 2019.

Prima facie, it appeared that repayment of ₹5 lakh loan was to happen within a period of 7 years.

The High Court proceeded on the footing that there was no argument in the entire complaint as regards any kind of acknowledgment of the said debt by the accused within the period of three years from 2011 i.e. within the limitation period of recovering the debt.

Hence, the cheque issued in 2018 cannot be considered as an acknowledgment of debt, it ruled.

The Supreme Court, however, said that this reasoning was flawed.

It noted that the understanding between complainant and accused was to discharge the liability within a period of seven years.

Hence, the period of limitation would start reckoning after expiry of seven years, the top court said.

Apart from this, the Supreme Court also noted that the complainant was not heard when the proceedings against the accused had been quashed.

The complainant had approached the High Court seeking recalling of the order, which had been rejected.

In view of the above, the Supreme court deemed it fit to set aside the High Court order and remitted the matter back to the High Court for fresh consideration on its own merits.

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